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Going to the doctor? Be sure to take your socks off

February 06, 2018

Going to the doctor? Be sure to take your socks off

No one wants to take their socks off in the wintertime.

The weather is frigid, everyone seems to have some kind of illness, and keeping your extremities warm is a top priority. Yet, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), taking your socks off at your next checkup could help reduce your risk for a serious medical condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

More than 8.5 million American adults are affected by PAD, and many don’t know they have it.

Niranjan Reddy, MD, cardiologist with Kettering Health Network, provides important information regarding common symptoms to watch for, risk factors to be aware of, and what treatment options are available.

Symptoms to watch for

“It’s important for patients to take their socks off when they come in for an office visit, so we can check their feet for things like ulcers, poor-healing wounds, foot swelling, discoloration and pulse at the feet,” explains Dr. Reddy. “All are common, yet often ignored, symptoms of PAD.”

Additional symptoms include:

  • Unexplained leg pain or cramping, especially during exercise or walking
  • Skin problems, discoloration, and/or loss of hair on the legs and feet
  • Poor nail growth
  • Fatigue
  • Heaviness, pain, or discomfort in the legs and buttocks

“These symptoms are missed because people don’t complain about them – they assume it’s normal age-related pain,” explains Dr. Reddy. “Also, they can’t feel the ulcers or slow-healing wounds because of neuropathy, which is nerve damage of small nerves of feet and hands. Another factor can be that they just haven’t been educated about PAD.”

Common risk factors include:

  • Over age 65
  • Ages 50-64 with risk factors for atherosclerosis
  • Age 50 or younger with diabetes and other risk factors for atherosclerosis and those with previously diagnosed atherosclerosis in vessels supplying the heart, brain, and kidneys
  • History of smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle

Diagnosing and treating PAD

Diagnosing PAD typically begins with your physician obtaining a complete medical history and performing a physical exam. Your doctor also will perform a simple noninvasive test called an ankle brachial index (ABI), which compares the blood pressure in your arms and legs to look for a decrease in circulation.

Treatment for PAD typically involves medication and lifestyle changes. Common medications include antiplatelet agents to prevent blood clots, cholesterol-lowering medications, and high blood pressure drugs. Lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, controlling diabetes and high blood pressure, managing your weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, and getting regular exercise can assist in treating PAD, and can reduce your risk for the disease.

If you have any symptoms for PAD, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and share your concerns with a physician. Kettering Health Network has a team of cardiologists and vascular surgeons who are recognized leaders in the region for offering the most advanced treatments and comprehensive care for people suffering from PAD.

“When symptoms are ignored and PAD goes untreated it can lead to Gangrene, infections of and even amputation,” said Dr. Reddy. “As many as 25-30% of patients who have PAD often have coexistent cardiovascular disease. Be safe - get checked out.”

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